CULTURE & ARTS
04/22/2017 12:38 pm ET Updated Apr 22, 2017

Adorable Portraits Explore The Lives Of Big-City Shop Cats

These felines are the employees of the year.
Valentino, one of many photogenic felines featured in "Shop Cats of New York."
Andrew Marttila/HarperCollins
Valentino, one of many photogenic felines featured in "Shop Cats of New York."

Tamar Arslanian knows that shop cats aren’t just cute, they can play a vital role in a city like New York that can feel a bit cold and brutal at times.

It all started when she started posting photos of two shop cats in her neighborhood — Jack, who lives at a wine shop and Kitty, who resides at a pilates studio — on social media, and was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and interest of her fellow New Yorkers. Many of them had favorite local shop cats of their own.

“It’s then I began to realize how pervasive shop cats were in the city, and the important role they played in adding a touch of warmth – a sense of community even – in a place that can sometimes feel overwhelming and impersonal,” she told HuffPost in an email.

That realization inspired Arslanian to write “Shop Cats of New York,” a book that explores the lesser-known lives of the city’s most adored felines. She teamed up with photographer Andrew Marttila, who shot gorgeous portraits of the book’s furry stars.

Matilda of the Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan. Having a resident "Algonquin cat" is a longstanding tradition at the hotel.
Andrew Marttila/HarperCollins
Matilda of the Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan. Having a resident "Algonquin cat" is a longstanding tradition at the hotel. A former shelter cat, Matilda now lives a life of luxury.

Arslanian had some important criteria for which cats she included.

“First and foremost, I wanted to to feel confident the cats were well cared for and beloved,” she said.

As it turns out, she was pleasantly surprised by just how great the cats’ lives seemed to be.

“My biggest ‘ah ha’ was realizing the level of stimulation and attention these cats received in comparison to most house cats, mine included,” she said. “I see my cats for about an hour before work and a few hours in the evenings during the week, but I can’t say I’m actively playing with them for very long. It made me realize the level of enrichment these cats were receiving on a daily basis. In some ways they could be viewed as having fuller lives than most cats living in more traditional homes.”

That’s one reason why Arslanian would like to see more animal shelters and rescue groups be open to adopting out cats to businesses, not just traditional residences.

“Businesses could be vetted as are most adopters, and assessed to ensure the business and cat are a good fit for one another,” she said, noting that of course not all cats have personalities that would be suited to that environment.

See a selection of Marttila’s photos from the book below.

  • Jeffie
    Known as "King Jeffie," he helps keeps mice away at Kings County Distillery in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
    Andrew Marttila/HarperCollins
    Known as "King Jeffie," he helps keeps mice away at Kings County Distillery in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
  • Kitty
    Exercise enthusiast at Sal Anthony Movement Salon in Union Square, Manhattan.
    Andrew Marttila/HarperCollins
    Exercise enthusiast at Sal Anthony Movement Salon in Union Square, Manhattan.
  • Bud
    A major draw for visitors to Chenille Cleaners in Midtown, Manhattan.
    Andrew Marttila/HarperCollins
    A major draw for visitors to Chenille Cleaners in Midtown, Manhattan.
  • Patti
    A "customer therapist" at Tent and Trails in Manhattan's Financial District, she sports a sparkly "diamond" collar.
    Andrew Marttila/HarperCollins
    A "customer therapist" at Tent and Trails in Manhattan's Financial District, she sports a sparkly "diamond" collar.
  • Matilda
    Mascot and official greeter of the Algonquin Hotel in Times Square, Manhattan. You can <a href="https://www.instagram.com/the
    Andrew Marttila/HarperCollins
    Mascot and official greeter of the Algonquin Hotel in Times Square, Manhattan. You can follow her on Instagram here.
  • Georgie
    One of two cat helpers who preside over the merchandise at Moo Shoes in the Lower East Side, Manhattan.
    Andrew Marttila/HarperCollins
    One of two cat helpers who preside over the merchandise at Moo Shoes in the Lower East Side, Manhattan.
  • Valentino
    Valentino, of Carroll Gardens Realty Company in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Valentino got his name after being rescued from th
    Andrew Marttila/HarperCollins
    Valentino, of Carroll Gardens Realty Company in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Valentino got his name after being rescued from the snowy streets as a tiny kitten on Valentine's Day.
  • Tiny
    Nicknamed "Tiny the Usurper," he lives at Community Bookstore in Park Slope, Brooklyn and has his own <a href="https://twitte
    Andrew Marttila/HarperCollins
    Nicknamed "Tiny the Usurper," he lives at Community Bookstore in Park Slope, Brooklyn and has his own Twitter account.
  • Keetah
    Music aficionado at Bleecker Street Records in the West Village, Manhattan. Sadly, Keetah has died, and the store closed, sin
    Andrew Marttila/HarperCollins
    Music aficionado at Bleecker Street Records in the West Village, Manhattan. Sadly, Keetah has died, and the store closed, since this photo was taken.
  • Sammy
    Charmer at MPH, a messenger/courier service in Chelsea, Manhattan.
    Andrew Marttila/HarperCollins
    Charmer at MPH, a messenger/courier service in Chelsea, Manhattan.
  • Sava
    This resident of Dream Fishing Tackle in Greenpoint, Brooklyn made the cover of the book.
    Andrew Marttila/HarperCollins
    This resident of Dream Fishing Tackle in Greenpoint, Brooklyn made the cover of the book.
  • Spooky
    Rescued as a kitten found at a construction site, Spooky now rules On The Move bike shop in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where he ru
    Andrew Marttila/HarperCollins
    Rescued as a kitten found at a construction site, Spooky now rules On The Move bike shop in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where he runs to greet customers at the door.
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